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Cause of Action: Meaning and Nature in Law

Meaning of Cause of Action in Law


A cause of Action is a fact or series of facts or circumstances from which give rise to right of action in court.

There are those facts from which legal rights and obligations arose giving, as well the right to seek redress in court.

In higher sense, there are facts before the court which justifies the plaintiff’s action, and which are necessary to sustain the suit of the plaintiff.
See the case of Sulgrave v Holdings Inc. v FGN.(2012) 17 NWLR. p.306(SC)

Cause of action can also be defined as group of operative facts giving rise to one or more basis for suing; factual situation from which entitles one to seek remedy in court. See the case of Charles v Gov Ondo State(2013) 2 NWLR. p.294(CA)


In the case of Adejugbe v Aduloju (2022) 3 NWLR (PT.1816) P.136

The court defines the “phrase cause” to be “facts that show the existence of a legal right or obligation, the breach or infraction of that right, the right to seek legal remedy for the breach and the entitlement to the remedies claimed”

In determining whether a case discloses reasonable causes of action, the court considers only the facts pleaded in the statement of claim.

Lack of reasonable cause of action and objections thereto, must be raised by party alleging it before issues are joined. Once issues are joined, a party is foreclosed from raising it. See the case supra.

In practice, issues of cause of action are part of the preliminary objections that can be raised. Where a suit discloses no reasonable cause of action, the suit is bound to be struck out if it is raised before issues are joined.

See also  Jurisdiction of Courts in Nigeria

What constitutes Cause of Action in law?

The facts or combination of facts which may constitutes cause of action as noted by hallellis are
a. The wrongful act of the defendant that gave the plaintiff the right to sue
b. The consequential damage.
See the case of Anukwu v Eze(2012) 11 NWLR.p50 CA

From when does cause of action in law Accrues?

Cause of action arises from the moment a right was violated or legal obligations violated. A violation of obligation created by law, gives rise to cause for action but a mere breach of moral obligation does not create the right to sue or maintain action in court.

Example of moral obligation..
a. Greetings people that are older than is
b. Giving help to victim of accident.
c.Assiting someone who is facing financial difficulty.

The fact that you failed to do any of these stipulated obligations does not give anyone the right of action or the legal right to sue you.

Example of legal obligations:
Duty of care while using or driving through the road to avoid knocking others. Failure to keep to this duty could result in suit of negligence.

Why is cause of Action in law necessary?

a. Statute of Limitation:
Cause of action is relevant because it helps the court to know whether right of action has being extinguished by statute of limitation. Statute of limitation provides certain duration within which certain actions must be commenced.

The consequences of not commencing such action within the statutory provided time, makes the action statute barred.

See also  Garnishee Proceedings in Nigeria

In other words, legal proceedings cannot be properly initiated after the expiration of the prescribed period. Any action commenced after such period is bound to be struck.

Again, for the purpose of computing the period of limitation, one has to look at the time the cause of action arose and the time the Writ of summon and other accompanying processes were filled. See the case of Bala Hassan V Babangida Aliyu supra

b. It helps in deciding the right court to file a suit

The place where the cause of action arose, also determine the appropriate court that will handle the matter. Instituting an action outside in a court outside the place where the cause of action arose will deprive court of the territorial jurisdiction to hear and determine the suit

c. it determine also who should be a party to a suit.

From the moment the cause of action arose, one can begin to ascertain who were involved in the act that gave rise to the cause of action.

This persons constitutes those who may sue or be sued as parties to the intended suit. In other words, cause of action helps to determine who has locus Standi to initiate civil suit and parties in a civil action generally.

Difference between Cause of Action in law and Right of Action.

There is quite a huge difference between right of action and cause of action. The later gives rise to right of action. Right of action is the right to institute legal proceedings or action. This right can be extinguished by statute of limitations.

See also  6 Duties of Lawyers to their Clients

The Court in the case of Bala Hassan V Babangida Aliyu(2010) 43 NSCQR 139 stated that the effect of statute of limitation on the action of the plaintiff is that it takes away the right of the plaintiff to institute the action but leaves him with the cause of action intact though, without the right to enforce same or right to judicial reliefs.



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